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Athletics is an exclusive collection of sporting events that involve competitive running, jumping, throwing, and walking. The most common types of athletics competitions are track and field, road running, cross country running, and race walking. The simplicity of the competitions, and the lack of a need for expensive equipment, makes athletics one of the most commonly competed sports in the world. Athletics is mostly an individual sport, with the exception of relay races and competitions which combine athletes' performances for a team score, such as cross country.
Athletics is often used synonymously with any sporting activity, but in most cases, athletics refers primarily to track-and-field events that involve running, jumping or throwing. Those athletic events are most closely associated with the Olympics, but competition in these sports is held at the youth level, high school, college, and professional ranks all year round throughout the world.
The Ancient Greeks
The first Olympics in ancient Greece go back at least as far as the eighth or ninth century B.C. While such sports as boxing and equestrian events were included, most of the events were those now classified under athletics or track and field. They included running, jumping, discus and the javelin. Those four, plus wrestling, made up the pentathlon. The running events included "stades," which were essentially sprints from one end of the stadium to the other, a distances of about 190 meters; two-stade races; longer-distance races of between seven and 24 stades; and a two- or four-stade race in which the competitors wore armor.
The Modern Olympics
Running and other athletic events have long been a part of many cultures, but in the 19th century, such activities were becoming more popular, particularly in Europe and the United States. School curricula included athletics and in 1896, the first Modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece. Events included the 100-meters, 400 meters,...